Some people grow up around sports, academics, or the arts. For Michael and Marco Pietroiacovo--two brothers from Campobosso, Italy--their upbringing was around truffles. As children, their grandfather showed them how to forage for the elusive tuber in the hills around Abruzzo, Italy. As teens they sold truffles to bankroll pizza parties and decadent first dates.
So when the siblings started importing their region's famous white Abruzzo truffles to Los Angeles some seven years ago, it didn't take long for the pair to gain their nickname "The Truffle Brothers." With the help of seventeen dogs, other siblings, their mother, and an extended family of foragers that continues to live full-time in Molise, Italy, the Truffle Brothers manage to supply Los Angeles restaurants with a steady supply of Italian tartufo.
Considering that a golf-ball sized truffle can sell for more than two thousand dollars, you'd think the Pietroiacovo's truffles would be delivered in an armored truck. Instead the merchant siblings sell their precious cargo to top restaurants (Spago, Nobu, Angelini Osteria, Providence, Ortolan, Cecconi's, and Melisse) from Styrofoam coolers and refrigerated chillers loaded into the trunk of their Ford Flex.
Since truffles are found, not grown, the brothers must rely on their family's foraging abilities to supply their small import company with their weekly supply. Once the tubers are foraged from the rich soil surrounding the Apennines mountains, the Pietroiacovo's extended family spends hours around the dining room table scrubbing thousands of dollars worth of truffles with toothbrushes. The cleaned truffles are flown overnight in temperature-controlled coolers to Los Angeles to ensure their valuable cargo's freshness.
There are few ingredients that command as much awe and respect from chefs as white and black truffles. And a little can go a long way. Once a truffle is placed near other food, the neighboring items will soon taste of it. "If I put one in the refrigerator," 36-year old Michael says, "everything tastes of truffle. Eggs, milk, meat, cheese... All of it."
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Since fresh truffles are outside of most food lovers' budgets, the brothers sell a line of truffle-scented oils, salt, and honey at the Beverly Hills Cheese Store. The pair suggest using a drizzle of truffle oil to enhance the flavor the simplest of dishes like scrambled eggs or a toasted bagel with cream cheese.
In addition Los Angeles, the brothers sell Abruzzo's white and black winter truffles to restaurants in London, Toronto, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
Truffle Brother's truffle-scented products are available at the Beverly Hills Cheese Store: 419 N Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; (310) 278-2855.
Brooke Burton is also the author of Foodwoolf.com.